I had been chomping at the bit to ski Kicking Horse since it opened in 2000. Kicking Horse's trail map is loaded with double black diamonds, and their stats should stable any cowardly skier. Kicking Horse has a 4,133' vertical drop and 85 inbound chutes amid four separate bowls divided by steep ridges with brazen names like CPR and Terminator. My husband had warned me, "you know they don't groom much at Kicking Horse, and it looks steep and pretty wild."
Like the name, Kicking Horse is wild and mostly un-groomed indeed. Our first day skiing this Canadian ski resort, 3 hours west of Calgary, we clocked only 10 runs but our ski thighs were burning from 36,000’ vertical of very steep natural chutes and bowls. Kicking Horse is a beauty to behold, 2,800-acres of bold terrain in the Dogtooth Mountain Range surrounded by the Canadian Rockies and The Purcells. From the summit, you can view six National Parks: Banff, Glacier, Kootenay, Yoho, Revelstoke, and Jasper.
For comparison, Kicking Horse is six feet shy of Jackson Hole's vertical drop. The Golden Eagle Express Gondola goes from The Horse's base village to 7,077’ in 12-minutes for almost the full 4,000’. The ski terrain at Kicking Horse is kick ass, runs here are long, especially if you take the Stairway to Heaven quad to the highest point, 8,033’, then climb the crazy metal staircase to the spectacular Blue Heaven Peak before dropping into Feuz Bowl for some STH - NFT terrain, or enjoy the view then retreat back down the stairs.
The Greens at Kicking Horse from the summit would be blue at other areas, the few blues would be black. The lone "beginner" cat track from the top is called “It’s a Ten” since it swerves 10 kilometers all the way to the base. In one precarious section, its bordered on both sides by sheer drop offs. Novices would be best suited to ski the lower mountain, on the Catamount quad, taking the Gondola to the top for scenery, lunch and a download.
There is a tamer side to Kicking Horse though, including one of the most spectacular mountain top lodges I have ever enjoyed. The Eagle’s Eye perched at the Gondola summit is Canada's highest restaurant. Lunch here is a must, an elk burger, a beer and a bird's eye view of Canada's towering Purcells, Bugaboos and Rockies - bring your sunglasses and camera. Kicking Horse mountain village is cool too - nice slope side digs at Glacier Mountaineer Lodge, and you are a short drive to Golden BC, an authentic western town.
One more wild fact about Kicking Horse, the ski resort actually has a bear lair in the middle of the ski slopes, a 22-acre fenced Grizzle Bear refuge is home to Boo, the 600 pound 12 year old Grizzly who can be seen from the Gondola, more often in April and summer than mid-winter.
Put Kicking Horse on your must-ski list if you are looking for big mountain steep in-bounds skiing, some requires a short hike, and it all requires an unbridled spirit. If you are bringing your family, save the Horse until your kids have harnessed all the double blacks back home. Combine a ski trip to Kicking Horse with a day heli-skiing with Purcell Heli Skiing. We continued on two hours west to Revelstoke for more amazing alpine adventure. Stay stoked for that ski review.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort photos by Greg Burke
Eric Wilbur is a lifelong recreational skier who spends most of his winter and spring in the mountains of New England. He does not ski in jeans. You can read more of Eric's work here.
Heather Burke is an award winning ski journalist with over a decade of ski news coverage. As a former ski instructor and a ski parent, she knows the ski biz from the inside out. She and her family visit New England ski resorts, as well as the West and Canada, to report on the latest trends and their best family finds. Her husband Greg takes all the accompanying photos, and their work can be seen at www.familyskitrips.com and www.luxuryskitrips.com.